2012 Toronto Fringe Festival: Q&A With Life In The Raw Writer/Director Barbara Larose

Barbara Larose shares the history behind her play Life in the Raw at the Toronto Fringe Festival

Left to right: Kaitlin Lane, Brianne Tucker and Rielle Braid in Life in the Raw. Photo by Dahlia Katz.

Of the defining moments in Canadian history, the Great Depression ranks among the most heartbreaking, and the most significant. Each Canadian city holds its own unique memories of how life was transformed in the dark days of the 1930s, specifically Montreal, which in the years leading up to the Great Depression was a city bursting with prosperity and culture.

The personal stories to emerge from Montreal during this period are what writer/director Barbara Larose focuses on in her play Life in the Raw (Thick and Thin Productions), a drama with musical direction by her husband Rick Jones, playing at George Ignatieff Theatre as part of this year’s Toronto Fringe Festival. Based on family memories, Life in the Raw follows three sisters as they come of age in Depression-era Montreal, struggling to achieve their dreams while tensions and hidden secrets threaten to tear their family apart.

We caught up with Montrealer Barbara Larose to find out more about the influences behind her story, and how it will resonate with a modern-day audience.

Theatromania: Life in the Raw is based on family memories. From whom did you learn what life was like in Montreal during the Great Depression?

BL: My family is from Montreal and both of my parents grew up there, as did I.  These stories were passed down to me as a child.  My aunts often spoke to me about their experiences growing up during the Great Depression, sometimes with laughter and sometimes welling up with unshed tears.  It was clear that these were the defining stories of their early lives.  They often talked of writing a book but never did, and now that whole generation of my family has passed on.

Theatromania: How will audiences identify with characters who lived 70 years ago? What universal themes are prominent in the story?

BL: Families—nearly everyone has one and has stories that were passed down through the generations.  Even though these characters lived long ago and their circumstances may have been different from today, family dynamics haven’t changed all that much. I only know that everyone who has read a bit of the play or seen some part of it has responded with some aspect of the piece that resonates in their own family and their own life. The play embodies many universal themes such as the challenges of growing up, coming of age, overcoming adversity, and discovering that the true value of life is not measured in material possessions but in the loving relationships that we forge.

Theatromania: Was it a difficult process to translate these memories into a stage production? What was the most challenging aspect of bringing these stories to life?

BL: The project was very personal and it was a difficult emotional process.  It certainly had its challenges. The stories were just moments in time and it took some real collaborative thinking to find a way to connect the dots and create a fully realized storyline. The addition of musical arias helped to create a bridge as the play spans a long period of time in the lives of this family. It also added another dramatic element and helped to keep the stories fresh in the moment.

Theatromania: Did you draw on any other influences, besides shared stories, to put together this production?

BL: We did a lot of research on the Depression itself and were influenced by the books, the music, and the images of the period. We had a few pieces of memorabilia from the time such as a family photo album and a Salvation Army songbook to inspire us. Rick, the composer of the music, was influenced  by the variety of different musical styles of the period and has paid homage to many of them in his songs.

Theatromania: What was your main objective in bringing Life in the Raw to the stage?

BL: We didn’t want these stories or the people in them to be forgotten. They seem to tell us a lot about who we are and what is, or should be, important in our lives. And we wanted to honour the sacrifice of those who had gone before us and had tried so hard to give the next generation a better life.

Theatromania: What excites you most about this year's Toronto Fringe Festival?

BL: Well, on a strictly personal note, we are excited to be in the festival after trying for six years to get a spot. But more universally, we are thrilled at the level of talent and diversity in the festival this year and the number of productions using music to help tell their stories—it makes it all the more exciting to be part of this creative experience. We are looking forward to seeing lots of great shows in between our own performances.

Life in the Raw is playing at the George Ignatieff Theatre (15 Devonshire Place), just south of Varsity Stadium. Visit fringetoronto.com for more information and to buy tickets.


Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.